If there’s one thing anime and manga fans hold dear, it’s the legacy of “One Piece.” Created by Ichiro Oda, this long-running and beloved series has captured the hearts of audiences worldwide with its comical yet thematically rich story, unforgettable action sequences, heartfelt moments, and a cast of characters as wholesome as any from Disney.
Now, Netflix has embarked on a daring voyage to bring “One Piece” into the realm of live-action. The results are in, and they’re as mixed as a pirate’s treasure chest.
Condensing a Colossal Tale
The first season of Netflix’s “One Piece” remake attempts the near-impossible: condensing Oda’s sprawling opus into a mere eight episodes. The story still centers on the plucky Monkey D. Luffy and his crew’s quest to find the fabled One Piece, necessary to claim the title of Pirate King.
However, it’s clear from the outset that fitting the intricate details of Luffy’s origin story, the formation of his Straw Hat Pirates crew, and their initial voyage through the Grand Line into such a limited runtime is a daunting task. Unfortunately, the adaptation struggles to find a balance, floating somewhere between abridging the story and indulging in fan service.
Missing the Heart of the Story
One of the most significant casualties of this balancing act is character development. While backstories may be delivered in flashbacks, the more intimate interactions that establish the characters’ adult selves are often omitted or only hinted at. As a result, the impact of these characters feels diluted, and their earnest interactions sometimes come off as unearned.
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Despite these challenges, the show manages to establish the unique characteristics of its world effectively. It delves into the ever-shifting power dynamics among pirate factions and governments and paints a harsh picture of a world dominated by vast oceans.
Thrilling Action and Visuals
The action sequences in “One Piece” are a delight. They are over-the-top, reminiscent of a violent version of Peter Pan, with characters being thrown through walls, bludgeoned, or sliced in half. The visual effects used to showcase Luffy’s unique abilities and the various creatures in the series are visually pleasing.
— ONE PIECE(ワンピース) Netflix (@onepiecenetflix) September 8, 2023
Notably, the pirate ship sets are worth watching for alone. They bring the world of “One Piece” to life with remarkable detail and craftsmanship.
The Talented Cast
The cast of Netflix’s “One Piece” deserves commendation for grounding their characters while maintaining the campy and sometimes corny vibe of the source material. Akigudoi’s portrayal of Luffy is particularly notable, capturing the hero’s G-whiz energy and comical mannerisms.
Jacob Romero as Luffy’s friend and crewmate, Carolee USA Usop, does an admirable job, considering the constraints of the adaptation. While the character may be impacted by the adaptation’s limitations, Romero’s performance resonates with fans and newcomers alike.
On the other hand, McKinney’s portrayal of Verona Zorro is somewhat stiff, particularly during fight scenes. His character’s aloofness feels mechanical at times, but he shines when given the chance to exhibit emotions.
Taz Skyler’s portrayal of Sanji, the beloved cook of the Straw Hats, is charming and displays the character’s range from reluctant warrior to compassionate ally.
Emily Rudd’s Nami Shines
The standout performance in Netflix’s “One Piece” comes from Emily Rudd as Nami. She expertly captures the Navigator’s tough-as-nails attitude, adding a mischievous slant that hints at past trauma. But it’s her passionate display of emotion when confronted by friends or foes that truly bring Nami’s character to life.
In summary, Netflix’s live-action “One Piece” is a valiant attempt to recreate the magic of the source material. However, the necessary truncation of the plot results in an uneven adaptation that struggles to find its identity. It constantly teeters between embracing its own retelling and pandering to fan service.
While the series excels in some aspects, such as world-building, action sequences, and a talented cast, it falls short in fully committing to its unique narrative direction. The Netflix adaptation remains tethered to the familiar waters of the original anime and manga, preventing it from truly standing on its own.
Ultimately, “One Piece” fans will find moments to enjoy in this live-action adaptation, but it may leave them yearning for the full, unbridled experience of the original.